WEDNESDAY NEWS DIGEST 3/8: Key heavyweight fight called off due to USADA violation flagging of Ben Rothwell (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)

By Michael Hiscoe, MMATorch contributor

Ben Rottweil (photo credit Derick E. Hingle © USA Today Sports)

A key fight in the heavyweight division has been called off due to a potential USADA violation by Ben Rothwell.

Rothwell, who was scheduled to fight Fabricio Werdum at UFC 211 this May in Dallas, was notified of a potential USADA violation resulting from a Feb. 6 test. The substance and nature of the violation have not been disclosed.

Rothwell was quick to get in front of the story, providing a statement to MMA Fighting acknowledging the failure and offering some insight into a potential defense. “With the recent news received from USADA, I would like to take this time to let everyone know I have been under the care of a physician and trying to overcome a medical illness. I would appreciate the chance to show that I have not cheated nor did I intend to cheat. Please hold your opinions of me until all the facts are out. I appreciate everyone’s support as I go through the process with USADA.”

Rothwell had previously been suspended after testing positive for elevated testosterone levels following his August 2013 win over Brandon Vera. Rothwell had obtained a therapeutic use exemption and was not suspended by the Wisconsin commission, but UFC chose to suspend him independently.

The full USADA process will need to play out before more details emerge, but for now, it looks like the Werdum fight won’t be happening in May.

Hiscoe’s Analysis: It was smart of Rothwell to get in front of this and offer up an immediate defense as the court of public opinion has not been kind to fighters who have been notified of potential violations. Considering that Rothwell has been suspended in the past, many will be quick to assume the worst of him. That said, fighters need to be proactive in disclosing treatments they are receiving when they get tested and not wait until the get notice of a failure before being transparent about what they’ve been taking. Cyborg was recently cleared of her failure, but she took significant criticism in the time between the original announcement and her exoneration but she also didn’t disclose the treatment she received until after she had been told she failed a test. The treatment may have been valid, but disclosure needs to happen as soon as reasonably possible in order to maintain the credibility of the system. At the same time, outsiders should not jump to conclusions regarding a fighter’s drug use until after the USADA process has fully played out.


-Georges St. Pierre told the UFC Unfiltered podcast that he has had many discussions with UFC about a potential fight with Anderson Silva in the past, but it was only formally offered to him one time, shortly after his last fight against Johny Hendricks in 2013, a time when GSP was not interested in fighting at all.

-The UFC 209 prelims averaged. 1.033 million viewers on Fox Sports 1.

-The UFC 211 card is starting to fill out nicely with the addition of Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis being officially announced by UFC. Also being targeted for the event, according to Ariel Helwani,  but not yet confirmed are Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier and David Branch vs. Krzysztof Jotko.

-Donavon Frelow is stepping in for an injured Timur Valiev to fight Bekbulat Magomedov for the WSOF Bantamweight Championship at WSOF 35 on March 18 from Verona, N.Y.

-Anastasia Yankova vs. Elina Kallionidou has been booked for Bellator 176 on April 8 from Torino, Italy.

NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: TUESDAY NEWS DIGEST 3/7: Nurmagomedov’s manager details timeline and fighter’s conditions that led to hospitalization before UFC 209 (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)

(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)

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